Think they don't play a part? Think again.
While conducting interviews for "Comparing Media Planning Tools," I was told by MediaVisor essentially that because the media buyer's role is so segmented from that of the strategist's, there really isn't an applicable use of the media planning tool in strategy.
Though this labor division may be true, particularly at large agencies, the notion of the media buyer not playing a role in strategy (and, hence, using tools to help) is certainly shortsighted, especially when it comes to online media. There's just too much volatility online, too many new advertising opportunities, too many contingencies for the online media buyer to not be involved in strategy.
This begets the question, "How should online strategy be approached?" Certainly, the fundamentals of good strategy should take precedence, but is online strategy without a buyer's perspective a little bit of the chicken-before-the-egg syndrome?
I'd like to think a good media buyer is a well-informed individual who's on top of the latest offerings being developed by Web publishers, portals, and ad networks, not some kind of mindless drone clacking away on her keyboard or hammering away for better numbers by telephone. A good media buyer develops strong relationships with her media reps and constantly works them for new advertising opportunities. This kind of media buyer may even approach reps who demonstrate creativity and innovation pre-strategy, giving them the opportunity to help mold and sculpt a strategy with their ideas.
This buyer knows the targeting capabilities of sites; the niche sites that may attract a more loyal, responsive audience; and Internet-based ad opportunities that don t even involve Web sites, such as advergaming and downloads. The good buyer, even if not directly responsible for optimizing and analyzing her campaigns, reviews the outcome and performance so she'll know whether that kind of campaign should be considered for future strategies.
As budget also factors into strategy, the cost of executing a great buy may entirely shift strategy direction. Advertorial, for example, is often developed as an entire solution approach, often at a substantial cost. In this case, the strategist and the media buyer work hand in hand to explore the idea of purchasing an advertorial solution in the development of the strategy, not as a "strategy first, media buying second" progression.
I'm not alone in questioning the process. "Online media buyers have to be intrinsically involved in strategy," stresses Melanie Kennedy of Strategic Media. "It's a circular process. The planning tools available to online media buyers can influence strategy as they may help define market potential. At the same time, the online planning tools can help flesh out the tactical elements of a media buy to execute strategy. Ultimately, the entire media buy, down to specific tactics, should link directly back to the strategies set forth at the start of the planning process. This should be the case for both freelance and agency media buyers, though agencies also need to be concerned about communication between account, media, and analysis to ensure strategy and buy tactics are well integrated."
Adam Boettiger, a 10-year industry veteran and currently a freelancer says, "In general, I view the strategy and planning process as one of the most critical elements of a campaign. In many instances it is a good idea for the planner to also do the buying because they are more familiar with how it all fits together and what the desired outcome is."
So, too, says fellow ClickZ columnist, Tessa Wegert. "There's something to be said for investigating potential site placements from scratch -- really getting your hands dirty and immersing yourself in your target audience's community -- and a buyer can discover valuable opportunities (or red flags) this way that they may otherwise have been unaware of."
Is the big agency way just too old school for our new medium? Ironically, the latest issue of "Fortune" magazine, which arrived in my mailbox after I wrote this piece, features a cover story about Internet advertising in which this very topic is explored: "Revenge of the Media Planner." Not too far off base, eh?
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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